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Turkey Tolson was born about 5 miles east of Haasts Bluff, a desert community in the Northern Territory of Australia. During his early years his family continued to roam between traditional country around Kintore and Hermannsburg mission, where they could collect rations of flour, tea and sugar, later settling in the area around Haasts Bluff. Only when Papunya was being established and there was work to be had building the settlement did the family come in from the bush and abandon their traditional lifestyle. This was in 1959, shortly after Turkey's initiation into manhood.
Turkey found employment as a labourer on construction work around the new settlement and also in the Papunya communal kitchen. He later married and moved to an outstation west of Papunya. After the death of his first wife he remarried and moved to Kintore in 1983. He now has an outstation on his traditional lands at Yuwalki, to the south-east of Kintore.
Previously Chairman of Papunya Tula Artists and one of the best known of the company's artists, Turkey Tolson was one of the youngest of the original group of painters at Papunya. While some of his work is amongst the most innovative and figurative of all the Papunya Tula Artists, he also paints in the classical, severely traditional Pintupi style of circles and connecting lines.
He was artist-in-residence at Flinders University in 1979 with David Corby, and paints Bush Fire, Emu. Snake, Woman, and Mitukutjirri Dreamings from his traditional country south of Kintore around Yuwalki, Mitukutjirri and Putjya Rockhole, where he lived. He married and with his family moved to Papunya, Northern Territory at the time of its construction. His first wife died, and after remarrying in 1984 he moved to Kintore, which lies within his family's traditional country. Later in life he suffered heart trouble, and was in Alice Springs receiving dialysis treatment at the time of his death in 2001.
Subject & Themes
Bush Fire, Emu, Snake, Woman, Mitakutjirra, Straightening the Spears
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia.
Darwin Supreme Court.
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.
Museum of Victoria, Melbourne.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
Sails Collection, Sails in the Desert Hotel, Yulara Complex, Uluru - ata Tjuta National Park.
South Australian Museum, Adelaide.
The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth.
The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A.
Victorian Centre for Performing Arts, Melbourne.
Submitted by Charles Flint of Charles Flint Fine Art
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